The Company of Strangers

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It is an almost perfect spring day, sunshine, cloudless blue sky and twenty two degrees Celsius ahead. Today I shall venture out into the world.

I realised yesterday that I have not been out of doors for over ten days. It is not as if I have felt isolated. The world comes in with the people who pass through this house, as well as through the Internet, through the telephone and through blogging.

This sedentary life becomes seductive. There is a cosiness to my place on the couch under the bay window, a safety in seclusion.

In my dreams I am mobile. In my dreams both my legs work. My unconscious may not yet have caught up with my physical state. In my dreams I drive cars, I carry babies, I run. But dreams as we know, are symbolic representations of states of mind that go on underneath, and that I can still walk in my dreams does not really mean my unconscious has not registered this event because there are so many other hints in my dreams – car accidents and falling – that I am sure I am working on getting over my leg, not just physically, but also in my psyche.

Eryl, has written a wonderful post on her tendency to write the word ‘love’ in reference to other people’s blog posts when in search of a suitable verb that honours her reading. Troubled by her use of cliché, she wonders about the meaning of this. The all too easy throw away lines: I love your poem, I love your painting, I love this post, this blog, as if to say I want you to know I was here, but I cannot be bothered, or do not have the time to reflect longer and find a more meaningful word to offer. Elizabeth, on the other hand, has written about the trolls who periodically invade her blog and send her messages of hate.

Much of this has to do with the nature of the Internet. Norman Holland has called it the Internet Regression, our tendencies, when locked away on our computers, to engage with the outside world in less well-defended ways than we might otherwise employ.

When I first started to blog I found myself anxious, frightened of what I might say in comments on other people’s blogs, and frightened of giving offence or of wording things in such a way as to be misinterpreted. There are no spaces for eye contact or for opportunities to scan the other person’s facial expression in the blogosphere. There are no opportunities for establishing through body language whether the person speaking is serious or joking, whether we must listen attentively or only lightly.

The only way we can understand the anger or the sadness the joy or the pain is through the words and images and words are clumsy beasts, while images are open to interpretation. Words and images do not always travel well from one person to another.

Lost in translation from the person through the computer and into and through the eyes and ears to the heart and mind of another. Norman Holland writes about Internet regression as a fact of life. There are three ‘symptoms’ to which he refers, the first is ‘flaming’, namely the typewritten rage that people can sometimes fly into ‘at some perceived slight or blunder’ akin to road rage. The second refers to a sort of sexual harassment, unwanted advances on line. Not only do men proposition women but women sometimes turn their unwanted advances on men. Finally, there is the extraordinary generosity that can blossom on line.

Holland ascribes these tendencies to the heightened vulnerability and openness we feel on line. The positives and the negatives of Internet life, in light of love and hate, generosity and aggression, stir up a type of disinhibition – a lack of restraint about social conventions. The computer, itself a machine is like a ‘phallic’ object that takes on addictive qualities. Our trust in our computer can lead to a certain confidence in opening up, a bit like the trust we might feel when driving around in our cars, safe and cocooned, shielded from the rest of the world.

The machine becomes our ‘as if’ partner, almost a sexual object. And we talk to it. When we write on our blogs we consider we are talking to our fellow bloggers. We love the sense of freedom the blogosphere offers, with its eradication of conventional status and the ostensible absence of class difference.

The ones most vulnerable are the ‘newbies’, the ones who first start to blog. Those who have blogged for some time acquire the stagger and arrogance of older siblings, and people refer to one another as friends or almost family.

There are no footnotes in the blogosphere. This is freedom. Also the blogosphere welcomes opinion pieces, the more personal the better. People talk about other people and their ideas all the time, but they are also free to offer their own opinions without apology, though often apologies take the form of a certain level of humility.

I often feel the need to qualify my statements, to recognise a multiplicity of views, but even the bigoted get a Guernsey in blogdom, simply because the nature of a blogger’s personality reveals itself over time through his/her posts and this is what we look for, information sure, aesthetic pleasure in art, photography, poetry and prose, but more than anything we look for signs of personality in our fellow bloggers. We look for someone with whom we can relate. We look for that spark of recognition, whether as far as commonalities or differences, something that resonates from which we might gather ideas. We/I look for connection.

Jodi Dean writes that there are three underlying assumptions about blogging, the first that speed is of the essence, and that everything happens without time to think and reflect; the second is that bloggers are narcissistic, self obsessed media junkies who cannot see anything from behind their noses; and the third is that bloggers believe they are pundits, and that they speak with authority to the whole world. She refutes all three.

Most bloggers know that their audience is limited. You can write openly and intimately and no one will read it. Or thousands might. You can never know. The minority of readers make comments and just because someone makes a comment does not mean that what you have written is remarkable, nor does the fact that no one has commented, signify that your post is not remarkable. It is a lottery. The more posts you posts, the more posts you read from others and leave traces of yourself in the form of comments and of the icon that shows you are a follower the more likely you are to attract followers and a readership.

Perhaps more than anything it is my access to the Internet and to blogging in particular that has caused me to feel that rather than staying cooped up alone in the house for hours on end, I have not been alone or in the company of strangers, rather I have enjoyed the company of many dear friends.

Yesterday, I began to worry that I might start to suffer from a vitamin D deficiency for lack of exposure to sunlight. I have resolved therefore to make it my business to go outside into the afternoon sunshine and soak up some of what’s missing.

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61 Comments on The Company of Strangers

  1. Mim
    October 2, 2010 at 12:44 am (7 years ago)

    Hello, Elizabeth:

    I too am wary of throw away lines. Gush is suspect. You call your readers "dear friends." Are we? I don't understand. Instead I like to think of affinities in space . . .

    Be well!
    Mim

    Reply
  2. Anthony Duce
    October 2, 2010 at 3:25 am (7 years ago)

    Enjoy the sunlight. After reading , I feel almost like we have had a conversation about blogging and the sun and the dreaming we do, what we may not be able to do at the moment, and I, although it was one sided,(you lead the conversation) felt like I was in the same place talking to you. You covered the subjects well. I felt connected. Maybe that’s enough for now. I didn’t love your blog today, mostly because I’m a little worried about using the word. But I did like reading what you’ve written anyway☺

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 4:28 am (7 years ago)

    Although I'm bold enough to count myself as one of your blogger friends, I am glad that you've gotten out into the sunshine and hope that it went well — this breaking of your convalescence. I am struck by your post — I am always struck by those who write about feeling "guilty" in their blogging, that it's a waste of time, etc. etc. I guess that I feel more as if I'm in some sort of world where "correspondence" is renewed. When I sit at my desk and blog, when I reply to those blogs that I read, when I click here and there, I feel as if I'm like a nineteenth century woman who is penning letters to dear friends and acquaintances. Andrew Sullivan wrote a wonderful piece about blogging a while back — I'm sure if you google him, you could find it.

    Reply
  4. Kass
    October 2, 2010 at 4:31 am (7 years ago)

    I felt my chest open up as I read your post. I'm one who has felt only the generosity and warmth from fellow bloggers. If some people chose to call this phenomenon 'love,' – it's O.K. by me.

    I feel educated, amused, stimulated and awed by what my bloggies write. I feel a little lackluster when I'm not able to log on and partake of my daily dose. It's like missing the sacrament.

    So glad there are people like you. Go – enjoy the sun.

    Reply
  5. Art Durkee
    October 2, 2010 at 4:33 am (7 years ago)

    In talking it over with some poet friends online, some years ago, in the wake of yet another troll and flame war on one of the poetry critique boards, I formulated it this way:

    The apparent anonymity of the Internet gives protection.

    It allows people to speak from their hearts; which many do on their blogs, regardless of the limits of their audience. I do this, you do this.

    But anonymity also allows those with darkness in their hearts to let out their "monsters from the id" to play. They say things online they would never say to your face. Normal courtesy and politeness go by the wayside.

    Deborah Tannen's book "The Argument Culture" is the most probing analysis of this that I have yet encountered. (I recommend anybody who wants to follow up on this to do a search for Tannen's article "Argument Culture" excerpted article online. I wrote a couple of blog posts about it, I was so impressed.)

    The tool itself is neutral, like most tools. It's how it is wielded that makes all the difference. Making connections can save a life, by making one less lonely. I've been housebound lots of times this past couple of years, due to my own illness; thank the gods I could reach out this way, and make some virtual friends. I know of some people with Tourette's syndrome who use their computers to communicate all the time in ways they simply cannot in person.

    Reply
  6. Glenn Ingersoll
    October 2, 2010 at 4:48 am (7 years ago)

    Have a pleasant venture out of doors!

    I keep two blogs and in one I write about books. I remember as a kid wondering about authors and wondering what I might say to them. Since I've been writing my book blog I've learned that my writing sometimes attracts the attention of the author I'm writing about. I even got into an argument (friendly discussion?) with one who took issue with a blog post about his book. I do not have a big readership. But authors (via Google alerts?) may find their way to your blog and talk back!

    Reply
  7. Elisabelle
    October 2, 2010 at 6:41 am (7 years ago)

    Do you use google analytics?
    It is interesting to see how people come to your place an where are your readers.
    Most of people don't leave comments, so it's nice to know how many did visit your pages.
    Blogging is addictive and sometimes I wish I could take a break. But blogging really made me grow as a photographer (amateur;)) and gave me so many wonderful opportunities.

    Reply
  8. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 6:47 am (7 years ago)

    'Affinities in space', Mim sounds like a great metaphor for 'dear friends'. I too am suspicious of gush, but at the same time,when I feel a 'gush' come on over someone's words or images or ideas, I want to express my appreciation.

    It's hard then to to find words enough to do justice to the diversity and splendour that can be found on line, without resorting to cliche, bathos, pathos or the sentimental, but still I try .

    Thanks, Mim

    Reply
  9. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 6:51 am (7 years ago)

    I tend to use the word 'love' often, Anthony,more often than is perhaps useful, but 'like' is such an understatement and 'enjoy' doesn't always do it for me either.

    Still after reading Eryl's post, I'm about to try to avoid using the word love for a while at least.

    That said, I enjoyed our brief conversation here now and I'm glad you found my post worth 'listening' to.

    Thanks, Anthony.

    Reply
  10. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 7:00 am (7 years ago)

    I've just checked out Andrew Sullivan's article on blogging. It was, as you suggest, easy to find on line.

    A writerly friend of mine has told me I should stop referring to myself as an autobiographer and call myself an essayist instead. Essayist sounds a tad more respectable/serious/intellectual perhaps, but I still have a soft spot for the word autobiography.

    Sometimes I get weary with all these genre based discussions. To me writing is writing, the more accessible and to my way of thinking personal at a deep level, the better.

    To me blogging is both essaying and autobiography and I enjoyed Sullivan's thoughtful and positive take on it.

    Thanks for the suggestion, Elizabeth, and for your thoughts.

    Reply
  11. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 7:06 am (7 years ago)

    Kass, I have enjoyed the sun today. In fact, today has been my busiest outdoors day since I broke my leg, the four week anniversary of which fell half an hour ago.

    Today I sat in the front passenger seat of the car for the first time for four weeks. Today I began to imagine driving again.

    I'm comfortable with the warmth of the blogosphere, however allegedly illusory, Kass.

    In years to come people will get beyond these discussions about the worth, value and merit of blog relations, but for now I continue to try to make sense of them.

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  12. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 7:57 am (7 years ago)

    The apparent anonymity of the Internet is an issue as you suggest, Art. Some folks prefer to hide behind it as you say, some who are driven by the hardness I their hearts. Though not always.

    I've met anonymous souls who conceal their identity for reasons that they cannot elucidate. I understand the anxiety behind that.

    The fear of self disclosure that can accompany our efforts within the blogosphere. How much to include how much to exclude.

    I found the Deborah Tanner article about her book, Art. It makes a great deal of sense to me, this tendency to want to rip down other people with argument in order to 'win'.

    It's not a consensus model. Most of the time in the blogosphere I find there might be a touch too much consensus, but equally there's no call for rudeness or cruelty.

    I aim for discussion and discussion need not be agreement. It can even involve a sharing of contradictory ideas, but people need to have open minds.

    Thanks, Art, for the link and also for your wise words.

    Reply
  13. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 8:02 am (7 years ago)

    I have a folder of letters that I have written to and received from certain authors whose books I have enjoyed over the years.

    I'd relish an online discussion with any of them, Glenn.

    I've noticed more and more serious writers are choosing to blog. It is a way to attract an active readership perhaps and to get both discussion going and feedback on your work.

    For any writer readers are essential.

    Thanks, Glenn.

    Reply
  14. Elisabeth
    October 2, 2010 at 8:09 am (7 years ago)

    I haven't used much by the way of GOOGLE analytics, at least not lately, Elisabelle.

    One of my daughters told me how a while ago, but I find it's is enough to enjoy my blog as it is, though I still intend to upgrade my format with help.

    I can see that blogging helps you. Your photos are splendid.

    I say writers need readers. I should add that artists and photographers, all creative people need an audience.

    And not just creative people either. Everyone of us, beginning as babies, needs an audience, our first being our parents, usually, and hopefully appreciative audiences, who are not cruel or unnecessarily critical.

    Thanks, Elisabelle.

    Reply
  15. jabblog
    October 2, 2010 at 9:41 am (7 years ago)

    We all have our own reasons for blogging and particular ways of responding to the blog posts of others. Certainly it is a pleasant experience to know that others are reading what has been written and more so when positive comments are left. For me, writing is a way of finding perspective in the events of my life. It is the recording that is most important, strangely so because I have never managed to keep a daily diary for longer than a couple of months.
    It's good to hear that you are more mobile and planning further undertakings. It must be hard to trust your damaged leg and yet you will, soon enough. It's wise to be cautious.

    Reply
  16. Dave King
    October 2, 2010 at 10:19 am (7 years ago)

    I can relate to most of that. I'm not so sure about speed being of the essence, though. Speed of reading, possibly is. I don't find any compulsion to hurry the writing, though. Maybe there's some terror of the self-imposed deadline, but I'm not convinced, even of that.

    Reply
  17. Jim Murdoch
    October 2, 2010 at 10:24 am (7 years ago)

    I left a comment on Eryl’s blog yesterday but I couldn’t see it this morning so I don’t know what’s happened. I often cite the word ‘love’ as an example of how inadequate the English language is. As I said in Living with the Truth: “Greek's much better; they've a word for everything and four words for love. You have to love your mother, father, country, cat, wife, job, strawberry yoghurt and fellow man all with the one word. Can't be done.” The four Greek words are, of course, philia = brotherly love; agápe = principled love; éros = romantic love and storge = the love of parents for a child. According to someone online Sanskrit has ninety-six words for love and ancient Persian, eighty. But even when we think we’re talking about the same thing, e.g. romantic love, what one person means is not what another person hears. He says, “I love you,” meaning, “Get your knickers off;” she says, “I love you,” meaning, “When shall we set the date?”

    We’ve talked before about the word ‘friend’ and how that has become devalued since the rise of the Internet. People have hundreds, even thousands of friends most of whom they know nothing about, not even their names. I’ve been reading a lot about camgirls recently – research, honestly. There are a couple of excellent forums where these often very intelligent and articulate girls talk about the pros and cons of their job. One of the girls wrote: “People think they know you just because they see you naked on the Internet.” She meant it literally but I think the principle applies to blogs as well. We use terms like ‘open yourself up’, ‘lay yourself bare’ and the like, we ‘reveal’ ourselves to people and because of the illusion of intimacy this creates we assume that a far stronger bond exists than really does.

    I knew very little about what camgirls did before I began my research and I’ve only scratched the surface. I knew they did ‘private chats’ for example but what I learned recently is that there are levels of privacy: ‘True Private’, ‘Private’ and a ‘Voyeur/Spy show’ where you pay for control but others are allowed to listen and watch. I think blogs are voyeur/spy shows. I read you blog as if you were writing to me and me alone and I’m responding to you and you alone but I’m conscious that anyone out there can follow our interchange. I don’t dwell on that fact but I am aware of it.

    I agree with Jodi Dean, the only proviso being with regards to comments, there’s no reason why you can’t spend days thinking about what you’re going to say but that’s not how conversations go. As far as my blogs go as you know I generally write them weeks in advance so I never have to rush what I want to say. I did find her quote from Chris Robinson where he described blogging as “a kind of two-way voyeurism,” noteworthy. “I see into the lived life of others;” he said, “and, in response, I reveal and surprise myself.”

    Dean wrote: “There is an openness, a door that a stranger might open, a link on which an other one does not know can click.” This is very like one of the comments I copied from the camgirl forum where one of the girls wrote: “I feel like a doorway into other things for you.”

    What drives people? One of the camgirls wrote: “There are all kind of customers, but as Freud would say, all is about sexuality, even loneliness, hostility, hating. Just they express that in [one] way or another.” Twenty-odd years ago I might have agreed with her. Nowadays I’ve driven more to search out meaning, not so much to find the meaning of life but to imbue my life with meaning. I feel that blogging contributes towards that end. Hopefully this comment will mean something to you just as your post meant something to me.

    Reply
  18. Zuzana
    October 2, 2010 at 12:09 pm (7 years ago)

    My dear Elisabeth, this was a wonderful post! So much information, yet it read with such an ease, as I nodded in recognition to it all.;)
    I particularly love the true fact that comments, or their amount doesn't reflect the quality of a post. I see it all the time, when visiting wonderful blogs that no one seems to comment much.

    It is always so much fun for me to realize that you are on the opposite side of the globe, thus your spring has just started. Enjoy the beautiful sunshine and send some our way.

    Have a lovely weekend and wishing you a speedy recovery,
    xoxo

    Reply
  19. melissashook
    October 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm (7 years ago)

    Thank you, Elisabeth. This gave me a lot of thought. For a long while, I just found blogging a joyful rush of thought, without thinking about who was reading it. And then I got sick and blogged about that. And now I'm finding it hard to find my way back into the real comfort I gained at first, just the pleasure of writing…

    Reply
  20. steven
    October 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm (7 years ago)

    elisabeth the process of blogging for myself has been about opening up and especially about learning to write and photograph. the challenges have been exactly as you describe here. i'm comfortable with talking to myself and so if no one were to visit – well i have a diary. that's something i would do any way!! the blog is much prettier – and more considered. steven

    Reply
  21. Kirk Jusko
    October 2, 2010 at 8:16 pm (7 years ago)

    If someone wants to "love" my writing, I certainly won't complain. Originality in the name of praise is no vice! Especially when you're on the recieving end.

    I've had very little opportunity in my life to exercise my ego, so I make up for lost time by blogging.

    Very thought-provoking piece, so thought-provoking, in fact, you've just now given me an idea for a future essay. When it comes time for me to write it (I've got something else I want to do first) I'll make sure I acknowledge you in the piece.

    Reply
  22. Enchanted Oak
    October 3, 2010 at 6:40 am (7 years ago)

    To me, you're an "essayist" because you write on a variety of social issues as well as your own experience, which you invariably expand to include a large social structure. I like commenting on your blog because I get to use big words and pompous tones.

    I've enjoyed the conversation here in your comments. For me, blogging is about a generous reciprocity. I think, therefore I am, and I think you want to know what I think, or else why would you be here? And since you were kind enough to listen to me, I want to repay you by showing you the same courtesy.
    I was seduced by blogging a year ago, when people began to comment on my poetry or my writing. The feedback was enormously helpful. My goal is to create a sense of connection between my reader and myself. Through my blog, I learn whether or not I've acheived my goal, based on the comments I get. I've found only compassionate and generous readers. Most people don't comment, and I don't understand that, because I am connection oriented.
    In a year I've made very dear friends in the blogosphere. We developed into email pen pals, then into phone calls, then into planned visits, only one of which materialized. We became friends for the same reasons I become friends with others in the "real world." Our interactions were a mix of commonalities, intensity, joint appreciation, and humor. All three of my dearest blog friends dropped out of the blog world, going silent on me. It felt exactly the same as losing a friend in the real world.
    I feel a connection with you, and I don't know why, or rather, I don't feel like exploring it tonight.
    Ciao,
    Chris

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 9:16 am (7 years ago)

    A blog is a good way to keep a record of life's events, Janice, as you say, and the fact that it is shared makes it more likely to be kept with care. I suspect it is rather as we learn in school, to put ourselves and our thoughts out there, for others to appraise.

    A private diary on the other had seems more directed towards life to come, to be read by other perhaps after the event. A blog is more immediate and accessible.

    Thanks, Janice.

    Reply
  24. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 9:21 am (7 years ago)

    I don't think there are deadlines in the blogosphere, Dave, except as you say, the self imposed ones.

    Certainly speed reading may be a factor, but also there is more of a tendency to rush writing out as it were, compared to the stuff we send out seeking publication in hard copy, perhaps because it's so easy to click a button and harder to post snail mail.

    I tend to think of blogs as works in progress. They keep moving. Others might not.

    Thanks, Dave

    Reply
  25. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 10:03 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for the run down on the different meanings of the word 'love' in Greek and other languages, Jim. It highlights as you say one of the shortfalls of English.

    Maybe there are other words for love, which are not in common usage.

    We tend to get lazy with language. A MacDonald's approach to words, that might seem easier but lacks the diversity or colour we need to deal with the multiple nuances of being alive.

    That's one of the jobs of the writer, I suspect. To beef up our language, to increase our exposure to meaning.

    The stuff about Cam girls is both scary and fascinating. Do we objectify ourselves within the blogosphere in the same way as do these women?

    I'm sure we construct our identities in similar ways – we are forever constructing our identities and not just on line or in the blogosphere.

    We develop roles and ways of presenting ourselves in public from our earliest days. Perhaps one major difference between blogging and the Cam girl phenomenon has to do with motivation, degrees of exhibitionism, the sexualisation of lives and bodies etc.

    Blogging tends to be more nuanced than this, by and large, I think. I agree jim, it's mostly about finding meaning, and shared meaning along with new understanding help us to connect.

    Thanks, Jim.

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 10:08 am (7 years ago)

    Shared connections with people from both sides of the world enrich our experience within the blogosphere, Zuzana.

    I'm pleased my thoughts here resonated for you. The lottery of life in the blogosphere probably reflects the lottery of life to some extent. But it's not all chance. The more we work at it, the deeper our experience can be.

    Thanks, Zuzana.

    Reply
  27. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 10:24 am (7 years ago)

    The joyous rush of blogging has changed for me over time, Melissa, especially since I broke my leg. As for you it has taken on a different quality, for me no less compelling.

    I hope you can find your way back to the sheer pleasure of writing. The writing matters more than anything, even if it does not become a blog post. To me writing is the essence and sometimes it needs be undertaken for its own sake alone.

    And so I write for myself first, and communicate second. In the first instance I hope my efforts might lead to the second, but they may not.

    Even so, the first might stand alone, but I still seek out an audience response over time, though much of what I write is for my eyes only.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 10:30 am (7 years ago)

    I still consider blogging to be part of a learning process, too, Steven.

    It's an opportunity to practise writing and as well it offers a chance to explore other people's writing.

    Other people's photography and art are an enormous bonus, including your photographic work, Steven and all in all the blogosphere, despite the odd hiccough, provides a rich and joyous space in which to learn.

    Thanks, Steven.

    Reply
  29. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 10:36 am (7 years ago)

    I look forward to reading your essay, Kirk. I hope you post it, or at least a link to it once it's written.

    I agree the blogosphere is not the place for inflated egos. There is a level of humility and self scrutiny that makes for the democracy of blogdom, that too much ego would crush.

    To me its like ebay – self censoring. If you sell a dud product, people will soon pass around the word, you're not to be trusted.

    Thanks, Kirk

    Reply
  30. Elisabeth
    October 3, 2010 at 10:42 am (7 years ago)

    Blogging as a 'generous reciprocity' seems to me a great way to describe the process, Enchanted Oak.

    You are not the first I've heard of who has moved beyond the blog face to email, telephone and even to meet others. Your loss of some blog connections – blog friends – three times over is sad indeed.

    It seems bloggers come and go. To me it is an amazing process, and as you suggest, we sometimes lose real connections with people in life as well, and also abruptly through illness and death obviously, but also sometimes for reasons we cannot fathom.

    Thanks Enchanted Oak for your kind thoughts and for this shared conversation.

    Reply
  31. Robert the Skeptic
    October 3, 2010 at 8:01 pm (7 years ago)

    In reading your espose' I was struck how closely your observations about Internet Regression mirrored my first similar experience in the world of Second Life. My surprising discoveries prompted me to write my first blog chronicling my adventures there. After blogging briefly (24 episodes) about my experiences in Second Life I went on to my current blog.

    Though the blog about Second Life ended, I still sometimes wander back into that virtual world from time to time. It is an extremely creative place, but one must be cautious as well, for all the reasons you mentioned. Still, I encourage people to try the experience; it is not for everyone, to be sure.

    Reply
  32. Kirk Jusko
    October 3, 2010 at 8:02 pm (7 years ago)

    I want to correct something in my comment. I meant to say "UNORIGINALITY in the name of praise is no vice," meaning I don't care if you use you a cliche as a compliment.

    Talk about humility in the blogosphere!

    Reply
  33. Nancy
    October 4, 2010 at 5:15 am (7 years ago)

    This was a very poignant post. I have the same feeling about my blogging friends – are they real? I do know that I feel that some of them are, however, I'm also in need of vitamin D. I think it's time for me to take a blogging break – or at least to explore some other interests for awhile.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    October 4, 2010 at 7:45 am (7 years ago)

    I've just visited your Second Life blog, Robert. It's fascinating, but there was nothing virtual about your sky dive.

    Terrifying to watch. How did you live through that? I thought at first it was to happen in Second Life, easy peesey in second Life, but in reality, not for me, no, never.

    I found your old blog fascinating, Robert. I toyed with going into Second Life to take a look around once – research for an essay – but in the end I decided I had enough to cope with through the multiple layers of life I lead as it is.

    I hadn't been blogging then, either. Not having been into Second Life, I think I can understand why you prefer blogging. Blogging seems to draw more on reality for all its virtual elements. I'm not that seduced by enactments of fantasy.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  35. Elisabeth
    October 4, 2010 at 7:47 am (7 years ago)

    I think I understood what you were trying to say, Kirk, but thanks for the clarification, others might not have been so clear.

    Reply
  36. Elisabeth
    October 4, 2010 at 7:50 am (7 years ago)

    Nancy, you are the third person I have encountered today who plans to take a break from blogging. Perhaps there's something in the water, or the ether or wherever.

    I can understand the need for a break. I feel it from time to time, myself but something always lures me back.

    I suspect that there is only so much blogging a person can undertake before they decide they need a holiday from it.

    Thanks, Nancy and enjoy your holiday away.

    Reply
  37. Marylinn Kelly
    October 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm (7 years ago)

    I share the sense of being struck wordless when trying to formulate a meaningful comment, so I leave and come back when my mind is more focused. It feels important to make a connection stronger than "great post" but who could complain of such a comment? Once I realized that by having a blog, I had an opportunity to work on my writing skills, to trust myself to compose something that would have appeal beyond my interest and to, one hopes, establish ties with others who take writing – and life – seriously yet acknowledge both are processes on which we work, about which we puzzle, every day. I don't track who visits…I welcome comments and, following the example of your blog and those of other writers, I began to respond to each comment, which I find very satisfying. I believe there are many things that count in life which can't be counted…a wide readership or a more narrow one, I'm not sure it matters. I do this regardless. About 10 months ago I committed to posting more consistently, then about 5 months ago I began searching for more writers to follow, as opposed to the world of mixed media art in which I began. Both acts have enriched my days in ways I could never have imagined. I find it all just gets better. Once again, Elisabeth, you've opened the door for extensive, constructive dialogue.

    Reply
  38. Annotated Margins
    October 4, 2010 at 4:57 pm (7 years ago)

    Words are, indeed, clumsy beasts, and blogging sometimes just seems to make them clumsier. Commenting on another's blog is the clumsiest use of words ever.

    I really enjoyed this post, particularly since I just completed the last part of my post about blogging/writing. I think maybe I'll write an addendum to my last post, because your post really got me thinking, hit on a lot more things than I thought about.

    Trauma, methinks, often requires as much mental healing as physical. I hope your leg is not causing too much pain.

    Reply
  39. Marja
    October 4, 2010 at 9:00 pm (7 years ago)

    Oh I always forget my dreams but when I remember they are most of the time wonderful. Ah blog relations I must say I have met some, talked to some on the phone, had a chat with gmail and I found I got to know them a lot more than on the blog. I am myself not that open on my blog as for me it is mostly to share some writng and pictures. Blogging is however a travel for me along beautiful pictures, ideas, cultures, amazing poetry and insightful reflections.
    Love it

    Reply
  40. KleinsteMotte
    October 4, 2010 at 10:28 pm (7 years ago)

    I walk every day that my health allows it . I blog to learn to express my own thoughts. That some are willing to read is ok. Comments remind me of letter writing, sort of like pen pals exchanging ideas. email makes for more personal follow ups. I enjoy the learning too. Every day I learn. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

    Reply
  41. Alberto Oliver
    October 5, 2010 at 7:16 am (7 years ago)

    Oh well well,,a lot of material for thinking over. I have found that all those concepts and attempts for classify people attitude, trends and behaviour can be sometimes hillarious, but useless the most. There are of course, many traits and patterns on people´s behaviour that can be easily identified, but the most of the times it is just a vain try of "stuffyfing" the people (hehe, sorry for the silly neologism) the way it is done with cattle or guinea pigs. Moreover, and i don´t know what do you think Ekisabeth, but must of the times i think "researchers" rather talk about their own thoughts, yearnings and prejudices when making their flamboyant statements. The true is that, for me, psycology is still a dark zone that accept no measurements or dogmatic attitudes and everytime i read such classifications,well, i can´t help having a mocking smile.
    Indeed, written expression can be very easy misunderstood, as we are creatures that were made for oral language, but also for body and hearing language. Anyway, when you comunicate yourself without the full feedback of all the senses, you can develop a higher sensibility with one of them, just the way the blind or deaf people do. Of course, not all of the people have the capability of doing it. When it comes to the blogging experience, well, in my case it has been quite satisfactory, fortunately. Maybe it is that i have met so many different kinds of people in the "real life", from the very pleasent and enrichening to the most frightening and repulsive, that i have developed some kind of..i don´t know how to describe it, but the case is that i don´t get easily distracted by the prescence or attitude, or comments, of the people surrounding me. I don´t konw if you understand me. And when i found someone really annoying, far from feeling my self threatened or uncomfortable, most of the times i begin to create all kind of theories that might explain their behaviour. Sometimes i have been even critiziced for supposely treat people like guinea pigs,,hehe, maybe they are right.
    Nice that you have enjoyed the company of friends =) As a matter of fact, i have had the lucky that some friends from the cyber world have become friends as well on the 3-D life, i think that despite it all, this is what all is about, is a ride, no need to scare, no need to grieve, but rather, to enjoy the ride 😉
    Have a good sun bath out there, and regards,,may you get better soon.

    Reply
  42. Elisabeth
    October 5, 2010 at 8:58 am (7 years ago)

    I think it's important to have some sort of dialogue, Marylinn. To me that's what turns a blog post from a soliloquy into a conversation.

    I try to comment on another person's blog when I have something reasonably 'constructive' to say, even when the comment is one of 'great post', because, as you say, that sort of comment can help.

    Of course most of us want more. We want some deeper understanding of what makes it a great post in the eyes of the commenter, but most times even if one or two can elaborate in depth, others might offer a supportive grunt and I think there's always room for both – the approving grunt and the depth.

    The silent ones, the non-commenters are also important. The only thing I find problematic are the 'troll' like experiences some folks experience within the blogosphere.

    The troll comments seem to derive more from political discussions,than anything else which is a good reason, I think, to steer clear of discussions about politics on one's own blog. Unless of course you're confident and looking for that sort of exchange.

    Thanks, Marylinn.

    Reply
  43. Elisabeth
    October 5, 2010 at 9:11 am (7 years ago)

    My leg is on the mend, Mike. Today the surgeon gave me the okay to start bending my knee. Progress at last.

    As for blogging, we do our best with our words and clumsy as they are, they make for good reading. If they were not, if hey were too perfect, they would get boring. A little imperfection can go a long way.

    As my husband likes to say, 'Everything in moderation, including moderation.'

    Reply
  44. Elisabeth
    October 5, 2010 at 9:15 am (7 years ago)

    Marja, you are not the first to describe solid and enriching relations with bloggers.

    As for you I think of blogging as a journey around the world. To meet and engage with so many diverse and interesting people is such a joy.

    Thanks, Marja.

    Reply
  45. Elisabeth
    October 5, 2010 at 9:52 am (7 years ago)

    I enjoy letter writing too, KleinsteMotte. That's probably why, like you, I enjoy blogging. It has the same immediacy and the same sense of intimacy and a shared exchange.

    Blogging is also an excellent way to practise writing, and as you say, like walking, it's good to do it everyday.

    Soon enough I will be walking again, I hope.

    Thanks, KleinsteMotte.

    Reply
  46. Reader Wil
    October 5, 2010 at 9:56 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks Elisabeth for visiting. You wrote about your cousin returning to Australia, because the climate in the Netherlands is too cold. Yes this summer was very cold. But still I prefer to live here, for I was brought up in a tropical country( Indonesia) and didn't like it there. It was always hot, dusty and full of insects. I find Australia only pleasant in June, July, August and September. It's much the same as in Indonesia. I am glad that I don't need to return to Indonesia.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    October 5, 2010 at 10:04 am (7 years ago)

    Alberto, thanks for your wonderful thoughts.

    I agree with you. People like to put other people into categories, to generalise and to make themselves feel safe by getting everything neat and in order.

    I fear we all tend to do this. You, too, by the sound of things. When you describe how you try to make sense of the scary and difficult people you meet, you try to theorise why they might be the way they are. It helps.

    I also agree with you about the importance of the 'non-verbal cues' that we pick up from one another in real life. We do not get these in cyberspace, but there are other clues, cues in between the words and the pictures. Some how we make sense of one another, however clumsy our words. Where there is good will, there is a way.

    Thanks, Alberto.

    Reply
  48. Wine and Words
    October 5, 2010 at 3:03 pm (7 years ago)

    Elisabeth,
    I got caught up in the lost leg and couldn't much focus on the rest…had to read further to find out the story behind the leg. It amazes me how different circumstances warrant different needs. Your delight at the sunshine and cloudless blue sky is my impatience. I am thrilled to find drama in my sky this morning…clouds that soak color and bounce it back to my upturned face. A cooler breeze that makes even the hairs on my arm stand up and take notice. And yet…we both need to go outside. Meet you on the lawn 🙂

    Reply
  49. Elisabeth
    October 6, 2010 at 9:32 am (7 years ago)

    I think it depends on where you live in Australia. In Melbourne the climate is far less tropical than you would find in Indonesia, Reader Wil.

    I think I'd also find it far too hot in the middle of Australia and in areas closer to Indonesia, but down in the southern regions of Australia the climate is far less extreme.

    Thanks, Reader.

    Reply
  50. Elisabeth
    October 6, 2010 at 9:36 am (7 years ago)

    Great to see you here, Wine and Words.

    I'm still locked into life with a broken leg but everyday gets a little easier.

    As for our perfect spring weather, I'm sure there are other places in the world where the opposite weather and all types in between beckon.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  51. Art Durkee
    October 6, 2010 at 4:36 pm (7 years ago)

    I admit I can't track all these threads, which is a failing of concentration, nothing more. And the thoughts around what blogging is, and how it differs or is similar to other media, are interesting.

    I view blogging as a format for open writing—essay, poem, personal thoughts, creative nonfiction, etc.—which can become a dialogue if comments are allowed. Blogging is also self-advertising or "publishing" in an immediate way, both looser and more available than traditional print publishing. As has often been said, there are no gatekeepers—which some have declaimed is bad, as you get a lot of crap, and which others have declaimed as good because it builds community and international literary friendships, etc. So the medium itself is, like many media, neutral; it's how we use it that matters.

    I tend to view what you write as what many call the personal essay: part personal writing, part larger essay form, part broadly expansive. Moving out from the personal to the larger scale of purview. Autobiography and memoir are kinds of personal essay, from this viewpoint.

    Reply
  52. Harry Kent
    October 7, 2010 at 7:06 am (7 years ago)

    Nice to see your wish-fulfilment dreams gradually come to fulfilment. Bending your knee. We forget what a marvel it is to be able to do that. Maybe Pángyùn had had a broken leg too when he wrote, “Miraculous power and marvellous activity, drawing water and chopping wood.”

    In our dreams, great powers seem to be easily at hand. In life, seems we have to wade through treacle. And you now sound so much more accommodated to the treacle, Elizabeth. Sitting quietly in your bay window, Lady of Shallot looking through the casement of her display screen. You sound much more at peace with your circumstance. Or am i being hood-winked by Stockholm Syndrome directed at your captor brace.

    Seems there spin-offs. Madam-Lash-with-the-Iron-Leg, a surgeon’s fantasy. It was good to read he approved of the x-ray. (Wonder if he keeps a covert collection – surgeon porn). I always project all kinds of insights onto medicos and so regularly land with a bump to discover many are just science geeks who just followed a career path. Plays havoc with the old placebo effect, that. Still, they more than earn their wages and there is far less honourable work that has higher returns.

    Yes, blogging is solace and a headache, a mass of contradictions and easy prey to stereotyping. Maybe it just serves back what we put we put in. Horton Cooley, in developing his notions of Self as a social product, used to quote Thackeray: “The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.”

    But somehow it seems to me so many bloggers are needy. It’s not that they are narcissists, it just that they need some affirmation that they are worth something, that what they do or think might matter. Why else would that trite cliché be endlessly repeated on in the media about “making a difference”. Deconstruct it. We are obviously anxious we aren’t making any impact at all, that like Keats, ours is a life writ on water.

    So that’s the un-written rule – don’t tip people over the edge, they a fragile enough already. Except the trolls. They went over the edge a long time back.

    Hope the knee-bending is coming along without dramas. Cheers, Elizabeth.

    Reply
  53. Elisabeth
    October 7, 2010 at 8:42 am (7 years ago)

    I tend to wander in my posts, Art, so it may not be a so much a matter of your lack of concentration, but more my tendency to stray.

    I love to wander, though, and as you say, blogging is the perfect vehicle for this loose and easy method of communication, whether written or visual.

    You encapsulate all these modes in your blog, and when I consider that you also are a trained musician, I am in awe at your many talents.

    Thanks for your generous and thoughtful comments here.

    Reply
  54. Elisabeth
    October 7, 2010 at 10:00 am (7 years ago)

    What an enchanting comment, Harry.

    I enjoy the idea that I can be compared to the Lady of Shallott. I think then of the dominatrix and Keats's Belle Dame Sans Merci:

    Oh what can ail thee, knight at arms,
    Alone and palely loitering.
    The sedge has withered from the lake
    And no birds sing.

    The birds have started to sing here big time, especially at first light.

    My knee is a joy. One of my daughters stopped me mid sentence yesterday when I repeated the story to another daughter that I now have a knee that works, for all that it still feels as though I am wading through treacle every time I practice a wide arc. It moves and soon I hope it will move more freely.

    It's the swelling, a friend tells me that causes the stiffness. I thought it was the cardboard padding packed in there in my imagination to ballast my bone against further breaking.

    I agree with you and with Thackeray that blogging offers a reflection of yourself, and as Art Durkee says above, blogging's helpfulness or otherwise depends on what you do with it.

    Bloggers are not the only needy souls or narcissists, though perhaps they are more obvious or up front in their need for recognition. Nevertheless, I suspect that recognition is a universal need.

    We all have it, only some are more able than others, for a variety of reasons to acknowledge it.

    Thanks, Harry.

    Reply
  55. Phoenix
    October 7, 2010 at 11:44 pm (7 years ago)

    Ah, Elisabeth, my first impulse was to simply write "I loved this!" and that was it. I curb my inner smart-ass most days because I'm afraid people won't get that my sarcasm isn't defensive or challenging; it's more of a whimsical and mischievous nature. I don't know if I convey that in my posts or not but it's always there, that steady undercurrent, never taking anything too entirely seriously.

    Life is far too important to take seriously.

    Get out in the air and talk to people face to face. It's fun to see facial expressions and hear tone of voice, and your blogger friends will always be here when you get back.

    I think the level of aggression in the cyber world is getting worse because the level of aggression in the world is getting worse. I haven't seen too much on the internet which isn't just an exaggerated reflection of what's going on in the world. Putting ourselves in front of a computer, with no context about where other people are coming from and no guilt about social niceties, magnifies what is already there. I highly doubt that the internet bullies are very sweet and likable people in the real world.

    My point is that if everything is simply exacerbated by the internet, the emotions and behavior still has to exist in our hearts long before we ever make it to a keyboard.

    Happy healing my friend! (PS one of your commentators on your last blog referred to "'God will fix it' Christian Scientists" and I am a Christian Scientist – I had to hold my tongue because I try to be polite and let everyone have their own opinion. Oooh it was tough though!!)

    Reply
  56. angryparsnip
    October 8, 2010 at 6:35 am (7 years ago)

    Elisabeth…
    I just got back and I am trying to catch up with everyone's blog.
    I am glad to read although you think you might be lacking in vitamin D you seem to be doing fine.

    cheers, parsnip

    Reply
  57. Elisabeth
    October 8, 2010 at 10:03 am (7 years ago)

    I have the same response to certain things I read that get under my skin, Phoenix – the negative generalisations about certain people – for you maybe Christian Scientists, for me and others, other categories.

    i agree with you about the degree to which the 'microcosm' that is the Internet reflects the 'macrocosm' of the world and life generally.

    You'll be pleased to know I have embraced more of the great outdoors over the last several days. I'm less couch bound, bending my knee and pushing further towards greater mobility every day.

    I've noticed your sense of humour, Phoenix, and I agree, it helps not to take too many things too seriously.

    Thanks.

    Reply
  58. Elisabeth
    October 8, 2010 at 10:05 am (7 years ago)

    I'm doing well, Parsnip. I think I've even gathered more inside by way of Vitamin D.

    It's good to have you back.

    Thanks for the good wishes, Parsnip.

    Reply
  59. Lally
    October 8, 2010 at 1:23 pm (7 years ago)

    Elisabeth,
    I usually don't bother to leave a comment since you have so many others who do and often say what I was thinking. But did want to send my best wishes for your quick return to full mobility. Though I know from personal experience that sometimes being forced to slow down isn't so bad either.

    Reply
  60. Elisabeth
    October 9, 2010 at 8:59 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for your good wishes, Michael Lally.

    As you say, it's not such a bad thing, this business of being forced to slow down.

    I've learned a great deal along the way, not half so much as you must have learned though your incapacitation, but enough.

    And its not over yet. At least three more weeks on crutches.

    Reply
  61. Phoenix
    October 11, 2010 at 7:09 pm (7 years ago)

    I'm glad to hear you are up and about. I'm at my worst when I can't move and therefore have no way of getting perspective on the things in my life. I think that's why I hike, travel, walk… they all give me perspective and a change of scenery.

    Reply

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